Octopath Traveler: Seizing My First Optional Dungeon

On the previous Octopath Traveler entry, we covered the very beginning of my journey(spoiler free), going over the initial chapter for Therion, H’annit and Ophilia, together with some good commentary on several game features and mechanics. My original plan was to pickup Cyrus, the Scholar, as my fourth party member, which I did, and then head straight for Therion’s Chapter Two location. But, when I noticed the gap between my character levels and the chapter’s recommended level, my heading changed very quickly. I could either sit in the nearby higher level zones and grind experience points until I was at a good level or just continue picking up characters while earning the levels a bit more naturally. I went with “naturally” and made my way south, picking up Tressa, the Merchant, along the way.

Cyrus is very perceptive in all matters except where it relates to women. Tressa’s passion for trade and positive outlook on the world bring a little sunshine to the game.

Untouched Sanctum

On one play session, as I was making my merry way towards Cobbleston, where Olberic starts out, I stumbled upon a slightly obscured side path. Following it for a short bit lead me to an ominous cave. What did I do? Took the party right in to discover what I can only assume is one of the game’s optional side dungeons. I had already stumbled upon a similar non-story dungeon somewhere between Bolderfall and Flamesgrace but, at the time, I was too low level to explore it and just moved on. On this instance, however, most of my party was right at the recommended level. Needless to say, the dungeon should have come with a warning label reading: “WARNING! – Suggested Level Does Not Take Party Composition Into Account. Milage May Vary.”

I realized I might be slightly in over my head during the first monster encounter within the dungeon. Three of the four creatures were pushovers. But, that fourth one, a skeleton, took a good five minutes to defeat. And, whenever it recovered from the Break status and managed to attack, one of the party members would pretty much have their HP sliced in half! Very quickly, before that first battle was even over, I had decided I would leave the dungeon right away and come back after a few more levels. My outlook changed a little when I finally defeated the skeleton and saw massive amounts of experience points running on the screen! All characters in the party leveled! My pupils must have turned into experience point icons (like dollar signs) and there was now only one choice: to push on!

Every fight ran very similarly: three pushovers and one mid-boss tier monster (usually a skeleton). It made me glad that I had Cyrus in the party with his ability to cast elemental spells on all enemies at once. This allowed me to Break and blow off the pushovers relatively fast in order to focus down the harder mob sooner. To my surprise, Tressa also did a good job holding her own as several of the stronger enemies were weak to Wind magic. It felt very weird building my strategy around having my Merchant character do massive damage. Now, who I did not have in the party was Ophilia and I regretted it every turn of every encounter. The party was definitely getting hit hard and would have benefitted from consistent group-wide healing. Instead, I had to burn through more items than I want to admit which felt wasteful on both my inventory and the party’s action-economy. Also, there were a few enemies with weakness to Light magic, which Ophelia would have been a great help on with her single and multiple target Light elemental spells.

The lighting and shading within dungeons helps maintain an atmosphere of the unknown, exploration and lurking danger.

In the end, the party somehow managed to make it through the whole dungeon, picking up all the annoyingly hidden treasure chests along the way. This included a very nice spear that I put to good use right away. In the final chamber, the party found a stone monument with some illegible inscription on it. This immediately reminded me of something I had heard about there being four unlock-able classes which can be quested during the end portions of the game. So, I resigned myself to come back later and started my way back out of the dungeon.

Classic Fun

Going through this dungeon really brought to light how much of a difference party composition can make in Octopath Traveler. I felt that, had I tweaked the party composition just a tad, the whole experience would have run much more smoothly. But, frankly, I disliked the idea of teleporting back to the previous town in order to change the party, just to be forced to retread the path to the dungeon and endure all the random encounters; they seem more frequent than in other JRPG’s . Instead, I trucked through the dungeon! In retrospect, the only two drawbacks ended up being the item consumption and how slow each of the monster encounters was. The items were probably not that terrible of an issue since, at this stage in the game, even the super cheap potions would pretty much full heal a single party member. In the future though, I will start being more cautious with what party I head out into the wild with; making sure that it covers a good gamut of weapon and element types. Oh, and healing; I have to make sure I have a good healer!

All that aside, the experience brought a sense of tension to the game that really took me back to classic JRPG’s and their sometimes punishing special dungeons. If this is just an early taste of what the game has in store, Octopath Traveler is going to warm up into an amazing adventure. I am having a lot more fun with this title than I initially thought I would!

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